England hires Eddie Jones as its 1st overseas rugby coach
England turned to the man who masterminded arguably the biggest upset in rugby history to revive its national team on Friday, hiring Eddie Jones on a four-year deal as the country's first foreign-born coach.
Jones, a 55-year-old Australian, was bought out of his contract with South Africa's Stormers franchise in Super Rugby and will take charge of England from Dec. 1, with his first match in charge being the Six Nations opener against Scotland in February.
''The opportunity to take the reins in possibly the world's most high-profile international rugby job doesn't come along every day,'' Jones said, ''and I feel fortunate to be given the opportunity.''
It means the four home nations - England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland - all have southern hemisphere coaches.
Stuart Lancaster was fired as England coach after his team became the first host to fail to advance from the pool stage at the recent Rugby World Cup. The Rugby Football Union - the world's richest union - said it wanted to hire a coach with proven experience of international rugby, unlike Lancaster, and Jones fitted the bill.
Jones coached Australia to the 2003 World Cup final, where it lost to England, and was a technical adviser with South Africa's World Cup-winning side in 2007. He later took the helm of Japan and guided the Brave Blossoms to the most stunning result in World Cup history, a 34-32 win over the Springboks in Brighton two months ago.
''I'm now looking forward to working with the RFU and the players to move beyond the disappointment England suffered at the World Cup, and hope to build a new team that will reflect the level of talent that exists within the English game,'' Jones said. ''I believe the future is bright for England.''
Western Province said in a statement that it agreed to terms with the RFU, as Jones took charge of its Stormers team only last week.
''Eddie is quite clearly the most sought-after coach in world rugby and this is the biggest and most lucrative job in international rugby,'' said Western Province RFU President Thelo Wakefield. ''Eddie came to us on Wednesday with an offer from the (English) RFU, which was simply impossible for any coach to turn down.
''It's a big pity to lose Eddie before he has even had an opportunity to make his mark here but you cannot keep someone against his will.''
Jones has also coached the ACT Brumbies, leading them to a Super Rugby title, and had spells with the Queensland Reds, English team Saracens, and Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath.
''We promised to recruit a coach with proven international experience and we have done that,'' RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said. ''We are confident Eddie can build on the strong foundations already laid, with this talented group of players largely remaining together through to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and beyond.''
Jones was presented as the new coach at Twickenham hours after the initial announcement and said he hasn't decided who will be his assistants. Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt - the three coaches under Lancaster - are still contracted to the RFU, but it is widely believed former England captain Steve Borthwick may be recruited as forwards coach after working with Jones with Japan.
England has largely underachieved since capturing the World Cup in 2003, winning only one Six Nations. Under Lancaster, the team finished runner-up in the Six Nations for four straight years from 2012, and flopped at the World Cup when it lost to Wales and Australia in the pool stage.
Clive Woodward, England's World Cup-winning coach, said on Twitter that Jones was a good appointment but that it ''raises the white flag for English coaches.''
Jones hasn't even started his new role, but he is thinking already about his eventual successor.
''One of the goals by the 2019 World Cup is to have a couple of the assistant coaches ready to take over as the head coach and I see that as a fundamental part of my job,'' he said.
Jones said he was happy to abide by the RFU's rule of not selecting overseas-based players, despite suggesting otherwise in a recent newspaper column.
''You always have a bit of a view when you're outside the tent,'' he said. ''I want players who want to play for England and to play for England, you have to play in the Premiership. Also, I'm happy with what we've got.''